Putting a kid tracker to the test. But does it work?

Putting a kid tracker to the test. But does it work? »Play Video

The big shopping blitz is about to begin, and for some parents, this sounds like magic: a device you can attach to your child so you can track them if they get lost.

But does it actually work?

The Problem Solvers put it to the test.

The device is called eZoom and comes from a company called Securus. Securus sent it to KATU to test, saying it can help you keep track of your kids, especially during holiday travel.

People spend more time in malls than airports this time of year, so we found a local mom with two children, to see if it would work for her during shopping.

"They run off, they get excited about something and forget to follow the rules to stay with you," said mom Lisa Decker about her two kids, 2-year-old Grace and 3-year-old George. "It would be an extraneous circumstance for them to leave my sight, but it would be nice to know I had a way to find them in that instance when and if that did happen."

The device is about one inch by two inches and can fit into a child's pocket. Parents download an app and track the device on the app.

Decker put the device in George's pocket and then instructed him to go with KATU reporter Kerry Tomlinson to find a hiding spot.

When George was out of sight, Decker hit the "find" button. It took almost three minutes to say it had located him.

"So, if your child was actually lost, this would be the worst three minutes of your life," said Decker, while waiting. "Your locator has been found," read Decker. She scooped up her daughter, Grace. "Okay, let's see if we can find George."

The app showed Decker that George was in the mall, but she said the satellite image just showed the roof, and she is not familiar with the building.

"All I can tell is, he's by a parking lot in a mall," laughed Decker.

She checked the app for more info, and received directions.

"Head north, turn left, left, left," read Decker. But the directions did not tell her how far to go north, nor at which store to turn left.

She requested directions, and the map showed that George was out in the parking lot. 

"We're going to run outside," she told Grace. "Let's go."

But that map was wrong.

George was inside the mall manager's office, coloring cheerfully with crayons and highlighter pens, as his mother was outside searching.

Decker eventually headed back inside and began to lose faith in the device. 

"When do we get to give up on this?" she asked.

Finally, she decided head to the manager's office, just to see if George might be there. He was.

"You were safe the whole time, weren't you, bud?" she asked George, who continued to color.

"That was so hard!" added Decker. "I would need this to be a lot more specific for it to be useful."

KATU checked in with the company behind eZoom, Securus. A representative wrote an e-mail that said, "As a GPS device, eZoom works best outdoors or in areas with a clear view of the sky (i.e. through windows). In a shopping mall, there can be interference with the satellite signals getting to the eZoom."

The company advertises that eZoom could be put into a car, to track a teen driver, or to find your car if it were stolen. You could also attach the device to a child's backpack when they go to school, to see where they go during the day.

Decker agreed that the device might be handy for those situations.

"For a car, for maybe a teenager that you expect to be at school and they're somewhere else, you'd be able to see that, it could have some uses," said Decker. "For this situation, it was very frustrating.

"If you're in a mall or you want a very specific direction as to where they are, I found it impossible to find my son," added Decker. "I mean, I was glad he was with you, so I wasn't nervous. But in a situation where I was trying to use this to find him, I think I would have been in tears."

On Your Side Investigator Bob Heye tested the device Monday night to see how well it could track a car. 

Except for an initial setup glitch, the eZoom did what it said it would do. The GPS device showed the location of the vehicle to within about a half-a-block. The location isn't exact enough to tell which space your car is parked in at a large lot. But if your car is stolen, it would give you and the police a place to start looking. The battery-powered device can be hard-wired into your car.

The eZoom costs about $100, with a monthly service fee starting at about $13.